US Navy Zumwalt destroyer’s deck guns are ineffective, but it is being equipped with new hypersonic missile launchers.

US Navy Zumwalt destroyer's deck guns are ineffective, but it is being equipped with new hypersonic missile launchers.

Stealth Destroyer USS Zumwalt Receives Upgrades to Overcome Challenges

USS Zumwalt

The US Navy’s stealth destroyer USS Zumwalt has had its fair share of setbacks and problems since its development. One of the major issues has been the ineffectiveness of its main deck guns. However, there is good news on the horizon as the Zumwalt sets sail to receive significant upgrades, including a new hypersonic missile system.

The journey towards resolving the challenges faced by the USS Zumwalt began with its departure from San Diego, California. After a minor maintenance setback, the ship is now heading to Pascagoula, Mississippi, home of Ingalls Shipbuilding, a part of the renowned Navy shipbuilder Huntington Ingalls Industries.

According to a statement from the Navy, the Zumwalt will undergo technology upgrades, notably the integration of the Conventional Prompt Strike weapons system. This upgrade is expected to ensure that the Zumwalt remains one of the most technologically advanced and lethal ships in the US Navy.

During the upgrade period, the impotent twin 155mm Advanced Gun Systems will be replaced with missile tubes capable of carrying a dozen hypersonic missiles. These weapons, still in development, are expected to be fielded in the next few years. The Navy’s decision reflects a necessary evolution for the Zumwalt-class destroyers, initially designed for land-attack and naval-fire support missions.

The 155mm deck guns on the Zumwalt-class destroyers have been rendered ineffective, mainly due to the exorbitant cost of their ammunition. The reduction in the total number of Zumwalt-class ships from 32 to just three led to a significant rise in the cost of the Long Range Land Attack Projectile, reaching around $800,000 per round. Additionally, the guns failed to achieve the desired range, prompting the Navy to reconsider their effectiveness and role onboard.

As a result, ammunition procurement ceased in 2016 when the Zumwalt was commissioned, and by 2018, senior Navy officials openly pondered scrapping the main guns. Now, it appears the service is moving forward with the overhaul of the weapons systems.

The Zumwalt-class destroyers, including the USS Michael Monsoor and the USS Lyndon B. Johnson, are now set to be deployed for blue-water surface-warfare and naval-strike missions. This new strategy leads to the introduction of hypersonic missiles.

Hypersonic Missile

The Conventional Prompt Strike (CPS) system, being integrated into the Zumwalt-class destroyers, consists of a boost-glide hypersonic weapon system. It utilizes a two-stage solid-fueled rocket booster to achieve speeds faster than Mach 5, in addition to the Common Hypersonic Glide Body (CHG-B). The CHG-B is a joint development by the Army and the Navy for their respective hypersonic weapons programs.

It is worth noting that hypersonic weapons, defined by their speeds of at least five times the speed of sound, pose a significant threat due to their maneuverability at such velocities. While other types of missiles can reach similar speeds, true hypersonic weapons have the advantage of unpredictable flight paths, making them potentially challenging to intercept.

The Navy plans to deploy the CPS capability on the Zumwalt-class destroyers by 2025 and subsequently on the Virginia-class attack submarines by the end of this decade. However, since the CPS system, including both the missiles and the launchers, is still in development, delays are possible.

With the upcoming upgrades, the USS Zumwalt is set to overcome its past challenges and emerge as one of the Navy’s most advanced and formidable warships. The integration of the hypersonic missile system will enhance its combat capabilities, ensuring its effectiveness in blue-water scenarios.

The future deployment of the Zumwalt-class destroyers equipped with this cutting-edge technology marks an important milestone in naval warfare, showcasing the Navy’s commitment to leveraging advanced weaponry to maintain its superiority on the seas.